Columella, Lucius Junius Moderatus

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Columella, Lucius Junius Moderatus, important but, for long, uncredited source of information on wine production in Ancient rome. Little is known about his life except that he was born in Gades (Cádiz near jerez) and that he was an officer in the Roman army in Syria. He composed his treatise on farming, De re rustica, in ad 60–5. It is divided into 12 books, all in prose except the tenth, on gardens. This book was written in hexameter verse as an addition to virgil’s Georgics, which Columella admired. Columella’s work shows by far the best grasp of technical detail of all the surviving Roman treatises on farming, and this is particularly clear in his treatment of viticulture. Books 3 and 4, the most important of the treatise, deal with vine-growing, but much practical advice on winemaking is also contained in Book 12, which outlines the duties of the bailiff’s wife. He discusses what grape variety to use in which type of soil; yield in relation to labour and capital outlay (he assumes that a well-managed vineyard will yield at least 20 amphorae per iugerum, approximately 20 hl/ha (1.1 tons/acre), and possibly 30); planting; propagating; pruning; training and dressing; grafting (Books 3–4); the vintage, and winemaking (Book 12). Half of an earlier, shorter, work called De arboribus (‘On trees’) also survives: it has a section on vines which is much briefer than the corresponding sections of De re rustica.